The first television series i recall watching was Star Trek in the late 1960’s — i was in kindergarten at the time. i grew up enamored with the stars, knowing the minute details of the planets, taking classes at the local observatory (Fernbank) in grade school.
A few minutes after seeing the photos from the orbital telescope (the person it’s now named after was virulently anti-gay, so no i’m not giving them space) i thought immediately of an original Star Trek episode called The Cloud Minders.
The rich folk on the planet Ardana live in a city in the clouds. The city is named Stratos. The folk left on the ground have to fend for themselves and mine zenite — Star Fleet pays dearly for zenite. The folk on the ground eventually decide the sth has gone on long enuf and are going to end Stratos. Rather, are determined to end a system that builds Stratos upon their death & decay (mind that Star Fleet knew what was up, and the writers also are letting imperial Star Fleet off the hook, but i digress…)
A group of the ground-dwellers called Disruptors lead the revolt.
Turns out that the toxins from the mines have so impaired the ground-dwellers that it’s even hampered their ability to stage organized resistance (as if the toll of mining isn’t enough itself).
You get the point. Flint, Michigan where a court of Stratos dwellers ruled that the mayor was not responsible for the poisoning of Black folk, copper mines in Kongo that enable my little device to connect to clouds while devastating Black Indigenous communities, the silver mines in what is now Bolivia that continue to devastate Indigenous peoples. The peoples displaced to make way for the “spaceport” that sent the telescope into orbit. Death for the benefit of a select group of folk in Stratos.
Stratos is our world today. Stratos is a possible world of un-addressed climate crisis. Stratos does not have to be our future. We don’t need Star Fleet.
Science as an industry, science as a discipline, american science as a means of reproducing an arbitrary category of privilege, call it whiteness. Despite famous Black astrophysicists and astronauts, despite Indigenous scientists like Jessica Hernandez who tell us “this ain’t it” — the field, the “sciences” of what Olúfémi O. Táíwò calls Global Racial Empire — make possible the exclusion & domination of racialized peoples.
The telescope is another one of the countless cities in the clouds. The resources, the knowledge that could and should have been everyone’s are hoarded by the few.
The solutions are simple. If the goal is to build an entire culture global culture of learning, build a culture of learning. A nation capable of blowing $40 billion in a month on drones could probably fund lit math academies in every Black, Brown, and Indigenous community on earth. If the goal was really the quest for knowledge.
We need to build new societies that truly unlock the stars for all the peoples on the earth. Abolition is disruption. Star Fleet is not showing up. This is the time for us to be Disruptors.